Campaigning ends for round two in Jammu Kashmir, Jharkhand assembly polls
Srinagar/Ranchi: The high-pitched campaign for the second phase of election on December 2 in 18 seats in Jammu and Kashmir and 20 in Jharkhand ended on Sunday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi spearheading BJP's bid too woo voters even as the performance of his government came under attack.
The campaign fever had heightened in Jammu and Kashmir after a record over 71 per cent voting in 15 seats during the first phase on November 25.
Nine seats in Jammu and as many in Kashmir are going to polls in the second phase with 175 candidates in fray, including several high-profile candidates like former separatist Sajad Lone and four state ministers.
In Jharkhand, former Chief Ministers Arjun Munda and Madhu Koda and three ministers are among 223 candidates, including 35 women, contesting from 20 seats-- 16 of them reserved for tribals.
Both the states are witnessing multi-cornered contests.
Of the nine constituencies in the Valley, the contest in Handwara in north Kashmir has evoked interest as Lone is making debut in assembly elections after unsuccessfully contesting the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. BJP has not fielded its candidate from Handwara segment.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who is leading the campaign of National Confernce, had accused Lone of ganging up with the BJP, which he alleged wants to end the special status of the state.
"Today, suddenly one of the leaders (Sajad Lone) sees a brother in (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi. The brother who wants to remove Article 370, the flag and the Constitution of this state," he had said.
The only woman minister in National Conference-led coalition government, Sakina Ittoo, is among the four ministers in the fray for Noorabad assembly segment going to polls in Tuesday. Other ministers from her party inlcude Law Minister Saifullah Mir (Kupwara) and Chaudhary Mohammad Ramzan (Handwara) while Ajaz Ahmad Khan (Gool Arnas) is from Congress.
A total of 15.35 lakh people are eligible to vote.
Security arrangements have been tightened following a terrorist attack in Arnia on November 28 in which 10 people lost their lives and a grenade attack in Srinagar yesterday in which eight people were injured. Yesterday, militants had also triggered a blast targeting an army vehicle near LoC in Poonch, but the troops escaped unhurt.
The campaigning for the second phase saw many political bigwigs addressing rallies including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
While BJP led by Modi raised the issue of corruption and dynastic politics and promised to bring development, it remained silent on the controversial issues of abrogation of Article 370 relating to special staus to Jammu and Kashmir. The party released a vision document in which it tried to woo Kashmiri Pandits by promising to reserve three seats in Kashmir for the community displaced from the Valley due to militancy.
Ruling National Conference said it would oppose any attempt to "tamper" with Article 370 and press for the reversal of "erosion" of the constitutional provision over the years.
Targeting Modi government, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that it was being run by big industrialists and had failed to fulfill the promises made during the electuon campaign.
Congress promised equitable development of the three regions of the state and said it will constitute two fully empowered regional councils.
It said separate development councils operating under the umbrella of regional councils, one for Chenab Valley and another for Peer Panchal Valley, will be set up. The party also promised review of cases of detainees not involved in grave offences.
PDP, meanwhile, promised to pursue 'Self Rule' as framework for resolution of Kashmir, besides effective governance to fight corruption and rebuild the state economy.
The nine constituencies going to poll in Jammu comprise three in Reasi district (Gulab Garh, Reasi, Gool Arnas), three in Udhampur district (Udhampur, Chenani, Ramnagar) and three in Poonch (Surankote, Mendhar and Poonch Haveli).
The nine constituencies in Kashmir Valley are Karnah, Kupwara, Lolab, Handwara and Langate in Kupwara district, and Noorabad, Kulgam, Home Shalibugh and Devsar in Kulgam district.
Polling for the 87-member J-K assembly is being held in five phases.
The third phase of voting in the two states will be held on December 9, fourth phase on December 14 and fifth on December 20.
Counting of votes will be held on December With 16 out of the 20 constituencies reserved for tribals in Jharkhand, Modi and Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi took up issues of the community.
During his campaigning, Modi appealed to the electorate to ensure BJP gets a majority to ensure stability and rid the states of corruption. He termed as 'lies' Rahul Gandhi?s allegations that the BJP was trying to amend acts that protect tribal land
In her election speeches, AICC President Sonia Gandhi claimed that a majority of tribals from Gujarat, Modi?s home state, had migrated as they had lost land to 'capitalists'.
Polling for 13 out of the 81 assembly seats in Jharkhand had taken place on November 25 where a turnout of 62 per cent was recorded.
Altogether 18 sitting MLAs, including ministers and BJP Vice-president and former Deputy Chief Minister Raghuvar Das (Jamshedpur-East) are seeking re-election.
The BJP is contesting in 18 seats in this phase, leaving two - Tamar and Jugsalai - for its pre-poll alliance partner Ajsu party.
The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM-Prajatantrik) and Trinamool Congress are contesting after striking a pre-poll alliance with JVM fielding candidates in 18 seats, conceding two seats for TMC in this phase. The BJP, Congress and JVM have fielded four women candidates each.
Despite running the government after snapping ties, the JMM and Congress are contesting against each other in all the 20 constituencies.
Incumbent Agriculture Minister Banna Gupta (Jamshedpur - West), HRD Minister Geetashree Oraon (Sisai), both from the Congress, and Industry Minister Champai Soren (Seraikella) are also trying their luck for re-election.
Madhu Koda, who was Chief Minister for 23 months, is contesting from Majhgaon on the ticket of his Jai Bharat Samanta Party.
A total of 44,31,900 electorate, including 21,72,982 women, are eligible to exercise their franchise in 5048 polling stations across seven Maoist-hit districts - Seraikella-Kharsawan, West Singhbhum, East Singhbhum, Khunti, Simdega, Ranchi and Gumla, Election Commission sources said.